Driver is charged in death

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Daniel Johnson was in the Aiken County jail Tuesday night, charged with reckless homicide in an October crash that killed a bicyclist, records show.

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Johnson


Johnson, 41, was charged 19 weeks after the crash on Beech Island Avenue that critically injured Dr. Matthew Burke, an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Gordon. Burke died Sunday.

Johnson was booked at 7:25 p.m. Lance Cpl. Judd Jones of the South Carolina Highway Patrol confirmed the charge Tuesday night.

The crash happened about 6:40 p.m. on Oct. 1 as a group of about 15 cyclists pedaled their usual Friday route after leaving Outspokin' Bicycles in Augusta.

Some cyclists said they heard a pickup's engine revving right before the moment of impact on the rural, two-lane road. The impact knocked over four cyclists but launched Burke into the air. He suffered severe head injuries and remained in a coma until his death.

Burke, a U.S. Army major, worked at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center and spent six months in Iraq. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and 11-month-old daughter, Anna.

A funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, his brother, Paul Burke, said Tuesday.

Laura Farmer was one of the cyclists struck by the Dodge Durango driven by Johnson.

The road rash on her arm has healed into a scar, but a torn rotator cuff still pains her, even after more than four months of therapy.

She said she has been troubled by the pace of the investigation, but was glad to hear that a charge had been filed.

"That's good news," she said.

A message for Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. in Aiken was unreturned Tuesday.

South Carolina law defines "reckless homicide" as driving a vehicle with "reckless disregard of the safety of others."

A person who pleads no contest or is convicted of the charge faces no more than 10 years in prison and a mandatory five-year driver's license revocation, according to scstatehouse.gov.

In a separate incident, cyclist Pascal Limouzin is still in the hospital after he was hit by a car Jan. 23 on Banks Mill Road in Aiken.

The driver, Drew Ward, fled but turned himself in a week later and is charged with hit-and-run with great bodily injury, according to SCHP.

Tom Lex with the Aiken Bicycle Club said safety on the road is the responsibility of both motorists and cyclists.

Law enforcement can help to a point, but most roads in Aiken County belong to the state and troopers are spread too thin to be much help, Lex said.

"What is feasible is thoroughly educating the public on the laws and rights of cyclists on the road," Lex said.

Since the wreck in October, Farmer has ventured out twice on a bicycle. But it has been on a protected path away from the road at Fort Gordon.

Whether she rides in Beech Island again is another question.

"Maybe when people pay better attention," she said.

Comments (102) Add comment
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the_source
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the_source 02/09/11 - 10:42 am
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chascush said "Riding a bike

chascush said "Riding a bike on Banks Mill is very dangerous with all the sharp curves. I know I would not ride a bike there."

Agreed. This area has too many stupid and careless drivers. This is why I advocate much harsher penalties for idiots like Ward and Johnson to act as a deterrant.

If the hospitalized bicyclist that Ward hit should die or be permanently disabled, the same should happen to Ward. As for Johnson, it would be great if there was a way to make a trade and get Dr. Burke back while forfeiting Johnson's life in exchange but, alas, science and society will probably never reach that point. Makes me angry how a worthless piece of garbage like Johnson was able to take away, forever, a valuable person like Dr. Burke.

ArmyFriend
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ArmyFriend 02/09/11 - 10:43 am
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@Lima59 and TakeAHike, and

@Lima59 and TakeAHike, and others

I have been following this case from the very beginning. I know Matt, though have not seem him in many years. I am heartbroken at his loss, and the suffering his family has and will continue to endure.

I am very happy to see charges brought against Mr. Johnson for reckless driving, as he has said that he was driving recklessly.

What disturbs me, however, is the comments by more than one person on this board that state this was "not an accident" or "murder." Those are very serious accusations - ones that, based on what I have seen and heard, are not yet substantiated. Furthermore, it is for a jury to decide, if he is even charged with murder. For the record, I am not on Mr. Johnson's side, as a rider of bicycles and motorcycles. But let me explain.

The witness driving the car behind Mr. Johnson did not seem to think this was intentional - just a guy not paying attention. The riders in front of Matthew think they heard an engine revving, but really have no way to determine if that really occurred, or why that might be. They were not in a position to see.

All this talk of road rage, bike rage, crime and punishment is well and good, in an academic setting. Don't forget that this event has impacted many families in a terrible manner, and the effects will be felt forever. The important thing is to support Matt's family (and even Mr. Johnson's, as jail time is likely in his case, even without a murder charge), and to work hard to ensure these events don't happen again.

Praying for all families involved (Burke, Burlingame, and Johnson).

Thanks for letting me vent.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 02/09/11 - 10:56 am
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ArmyFriend, you are a voice

ArmyFriend, you are a voice of sanity and reason in the midst of this sad and angry discussion.

Rob Pavey
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Rob Pavey 02/09/11 - 10:59 am
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a driver's license gives you

a driver's license gives you the privilege of using our roads and it also implies you will use appropriate behavior. bicyclists might be in your way - but so what? it is their road, too. Vehicles must yield to them. Same goes for dogs, wandering children, wildlife, joggers and livestock. If something is in your way, you yield to it and stay as far away as safely possible. Just beause the perceived 'obstacle' is human is no reason to see how close you can get, just to teach someone a lesson.

Name Not Important
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Name Not Important 02/09/11 - 11:00 am
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Oh please the_source there is

Oh please the_source there is no proof is any of the articles or news stories that Mr. Johnson did this intentionally. He isn't a walking pile of feces. Yes he made a mistake and he's getting punished for it. Let the courts handle it. You're in no place to judge....you're letting your emotions get the best of you. I *DO* understand that but you also have to understand Mr. Johnson isn't Charles Manson. He didn't wake up that morning thinking about mowing down anyone. It was a terrible accident. I'm sure you're no perfect driver. It could've easily been you distracted by your child talking to you or a cellphone ringing or what have you.

justinmiller87
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justinmiller87 02/09/11 - 11:01 am
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Rest in peace, I am sorry for

Rest in peace, I am sorry for the little girl who will have to grow up without a father. Please people, watch the roads! Cyclists are everywhere!

happychimer
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 11:01 am
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Charges could have been

Charges could have been brought against Johnson earlier, and then been upgraded when Dr. Burke died. There would have been no double jeopardy.

localbusinessowner
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localbusinessowner 02/09/11 - 11:01 am
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This whole situation is

This whole situation is terrible, with a death and injuries, everyone in this world has given their opinion, made it about biking, made it about a law enforcement cover up, made it about his education, made it about safe roads.
It is about this, a terrible accident that killed a gentleman, injured others and ruined lives for ever. I sympathize with everyone involved.

Many of you keep saying Mr. Johnson needs to make a statement of apology. Maybe so, but it seems that will just be another forum for attacks, "he's not really sorry, he mowed them down", etc, sometimes silence is better. Poor Mrs. Burke doesnt need to hear or read these comments everyday, so if he were out in the public screaming how sorry he was, I don't believe it would offer much comfort to her, as she sat by her husband's hospital bed.

I pray I never have anything happen where I am newsworthy, I would hate to be the subject of any story where the public could comment.

BelleBelle22
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BelleBelle22 02/09/11 - 11:05 am
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To all of you that is juding

To all of you that is juding someone for an accident need to stop an think you are not GOD an he I am sure did not hit him on purpose so you need to stop. No one just hits someone GOD is sittin an listenin to you judge someone an he is not happy at all. I am sorry for the lose of the family an all my PRAYERS go out to them an the Lord will be with then.

BelleBelle22
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BelleBelle22 02/09/11 - 11:07 am
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There is one thing that I do

There is one thing that I do not understand WHY did they wait until the man died before they did something that is sad on Dannys part for them to do him that way if he hadnt passed what would they have done then its just sad :<

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 02/09/11 - 11:12 am
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When I was road riding during

When I was road riding during college, as I recall, our group almost always had a car or truck driving behind us to protect our rear, as much as was possible. We also often had a car or truck in front as well. Mostly those vehicles just carted out bicycles to and from where we were riding, but who knows what they also prevented,

Is such a practice possible in our area as well?

the_source
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the_source 02/09/11 - 11:17 am
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Name Not Important said "He

Name Not Important said "He didn't wake up that morning thinking about mowing down anyone. It was a terrible accident."

Agreed. But did you see the math someone did showing that Johnson had to be distracted for about 36 seconds to have caused this tragedy? 36 SECONDS, not just a fraction of a second as you are assuming. What was he doing for 36 SECONDS? I've known people to take cat naps for that long.

Johnson may not have woken up in the morning with the intent of killing someone, but to be "distracted" for 36 SECONDS sounds pretty intentional to me.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/09/11 - 11:28 am
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Too many assume that this is

Too many assume that this is the only run in cyclist have had with such people as Mr Johnson, including his relatives and neighbors. Uh, and there were witnesses on the scene, both in motor vehicles and bikes. This is not a case without overwhelming evidence. and it's not Just about Matt, he is a great loss to everyone who knows him. Its about careless, dangerous drivers, that's what killed Matt. Johnson was driving the "Smoking Gun" he was on the scene, it was his vehicle, he accelerated according to witnesses, he veered INTO the riders, also witnessed and he hit and Killed Matt Burke. No need for Judgement, these are FACTS. stop defending bad driving! Stop blaming bicycles for the problems on todays roads, it's a myth and it's just not true. bad drivers kill people, not bicycles

STOP BAD DRIVERS AND STOP THE KILLING

Cadence
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Cadence 02/09/11 - 11:33 am
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People who are feeling the

People who are feeling the loss want desperately to believe that this was intentional. They cannot accept that this was simply an accident. I understand that. But it seems that it was. I did not realize that this was a pack of 15 bike riders! They did not belong on a road with cars and trucks. It was an accident just waiting to happen and it finally did.

I am disturbed by the ravings that one life is more valuable than another simply because one is an "ignorant, uneducated, southerner' and one is not. I guess that justifies the eye for an eye they have been demanding. When we all end up blind then maybe they will feel that justice has been done.

chascush
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chascush 02/09/11 - 11:34 am
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the_source, ’I'm sorry to

the_source, ’I'm sorry to disagree but Johnson and his brood deserve no support.’
Your anger is distorting your thinking.

happychimer
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 11:36 am
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When I see even 1 person

When I see even 1 person walking or riding a bicycle near or on a road, I am alerted that that person might come out too close to my car. I will slow down if I feel I need to. I even watch out if I see an animal.

Name Not Important
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Name Not Important 02/09/11 - 11:38 am
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He didn't intentionally

He didn't intentionally murder the guy...he didn't drive off...it was an accident people it could happen to anyone of us on here...accidents happen to good people...so stop pointing your fingers and passing judgment...and sympathize with both the woman and baby who lost this wonderful doctor and the man who will have to live with the fact that he is to blame for his death for the rest of his life...

random1
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random1 02/09/11 - 11:41 am
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First off, so sorry to hear

First off, so sorry to hear about Dr Burke's passing. I have had issues with bicyclist's acting like they have the right of way or own the road, but I've never buzzed them or tried to run them off the road. With that being said, (and I went to school with Danny), Beech Island Avenue is not normally heavy with traffic that he could not have gone around them. It's a shame he was "distracted". Look at his facebook picture, it's a picture of him while he's sitting in the front seat of his car! Another time that he was "distracted" possibly? Danny has had issues his whole life, there is no current wife and he lives with his dad. Knowing what I know about him and this is just my opinion, I'm sure there was no distraction and just him trying to prove a point and try to freak out this group of bicyclists. Because on the Austin Rhodes show people that were on the scene BEFORE the police showed up state that he was very combative and defensive. Then he changed his attitude once the cops showed up. Wonder if a sobriety test was given?

Drain Bamage
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Drain Bamage 02/09/11 - 11:45 am
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If Mr. Johnson was

If Mr. Johnson was intoxicated or purposely hit the cyclist then he gets what he deserves, but I travel the roads 8 to 15 hours a day. It just amazes me that the cyclist believe they have absolute rights to the roadway. I see them riding not on the edge on the curb side of the fog line (white line), but actually in the lane of travel and believe that an 18 wheeler that just topped a hill can stop or maneuver on a dime. You cyclist need to write your congressman or someone who might care and see if they can allocate some state funds to a bicycle park or trail. They could start requiring that you purchase bicycle tags to raise the money. I think that you should also take and pass a State exam to get a Bicycle License. I mean I see infractions daily by bicyclist. If your Drivers License for driving a car is suspended what gives you the right to ride a bicycle on State or County maintained roads.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/09/11 - 12:06 pm
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@name not important:

@name not important: witnesses of the "event" stated that Johnson tried to get back into his vehicle and leave. He needed to be detained and was very combative.
@drain bamage....I rode to work every morning for over 5 years on Washington road, very busy, buses, trucks and never once had any problem with any of them getting by. A bicycle has the same lane rights as a motor vehicle, professional drivers know this and every semi and bus that passed me did so without even coming close. the lane of travel does not belong to cars, it belongs to everyone. But I am sure you will never come to terms with that, or that the road is open to all that care to use it. it's your attitude that keeps the problems going. The attitude of a poor driver. A cyclist has the same rights and reasons to move about in a lane, obstacle avoidance being one, turning left? we do that too! bike parks and trails can't get me to work. and I choose to ride my bike over wasting gas money in a car that won't get me there much faster, requires much more maintenance...and takes up a whole lane...

stairway2nowhere
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stairway2nowhere 02/09/11 - 12:15 pm
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you folks do realize there is

you folks do realize there is a quadrillion dollar bike trail in beech island right you do realize you can bike up the savannah river right...i mean people can bike ten miles a day but would not hear off actually doing that.....personally im sick and tired of driving down dark twisting roads at the posted speed limit and having to dive into a ditch because the bikers ARE ALWAYS STRETCHED ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE LANES...i have yet to come up on a group of bikers that ride where they are legally supposed to ride

stairway2nowhere
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stairway2nowhere 02/09/11 - 12:19 pm
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and i never knew there were

and i never knew there were so many forensic crash investigators out there in the world or is it the crystal yall use since all of us were not even within 30 miles of this accident

Name Not Important
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Name Not Important 02/09/11 - 12:49 pm
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I think we all should look at

I think we all should look at this case and then take a real look at our own actions & LEARN from them. The judicial system will deal with this as they see fit, and we may or may not like the results, but our opinions will not change them. Next time you are driving & just have to look at your phone, or the radio, or search for something, or anything that requires you to take your eyes off the road for a second, stop, or wait until you are stopped. The next picture in the AC could be mine or yours, and all just because of an accident.

dani
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dani 02/09/11 - 12:54 pm
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This is tragic, so

This is tragic, so heart-wrenching on both sides. Let's pray for them all and try to get past this.
I wish I knew the truth but I don't. And probably never will.

Drain Bamage
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Drain Bamage 02/09/11 - 12:59 pm
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Censorshipiswrong....It's

Censorshipiswrong....It's called public transportation...that's what its there for ...Use it...ZERO maintenance nor gas money for you...Your tax dollar pays for it...If you just have to have a chaffed crouch buy a stationary bike...Stairway2nowhere...I knew we had bicycle trails that our tax dollars paid for you'd think a bicyclist would know where they are located...I know I'm more than 30 miles from where the actual accident occurred...Just not a fan of the bicyclist who act like the thugs at the mall....They ride side by side and expect others to move out of their way...I pay taxes and insurance on my vehicle so I have the right to use the roadway

InChristLove
22487
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InChristLove 02/09/11 - 01:31 pm
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"Charges could have been

"Charges could have been brought against Johnson earlier, and then been upgraded when Dr. Burke died. There would have been no double jeopardy."

Do believe someone is calling the DA a liar.

"Any charges against the driver, Daniel Johnson, were delayed, though, to avoid double jeopardy", Thurmond said.

InChristLove
22487
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InChristLove 02/09/11 - 01:35 pm
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dani, I believe you are

dani, I believe you are correct. Whether Mr. Johnson intentionally hit these bicyclist or not........a man has lost his life, and several others are going through medical difficulties themselves. All are in need prayer.

Let the court system work....It may not be perfect but it's better than vigilanty style.

PeaceBWithU
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PeaceBWithU 02/09/11 - 01:40 pm
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After reading some of the

After reading some of the comments on this article and the article that announced Dr. Burke's death, I literally became sick to my stomach. It never crossed my mind, not once, that this unconscionable act by Mr. Johnson could have been deliberate. If what the riders that were on the scene say is true, and can be proven ( "do the math"), then it is my fervent prayer that Mr. Johnson receive the maximum sentence allowed for this charge. I also hope that he is soon charged for the injuries inflicted on the other cyclists involved.
On another note, the narrow-minded, selfish, bigoted posts from so many that feel the road is only there for cars show a HUGE need for public education and an attitude adjustment. I no longer live in Augusta, but if there is a group willing to take up the cause of making a public service announcement, I'd make a donation. Big things can happen with pooled resources and there is a real need for the message of sharing the road to be spread in this community. The only way to fight ignorance is to educate and lead by example. Be nice people. It's that simple.

Real Justice
5
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Real Justice 02/09/11 - 01:55 pm
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Anyone that understands the

Anyone that understands the legal process is aware that the delay was caused by waiting for the inevitable outcome of Matt Burke. Now that the charges have been made and probably additional charges coming regarding the other cyclist, everyone involved should prepare themselves for a lengthy legal process. The best legal minds will be involved in this case due to the exposure and all the witnesses better get their stories straight and write them down because it will be quite a while before you are brought to testify. Trust me, you will torn to shreds if you are not prepared. Ultimately however I feel you will see the South Carolina court system will put a higher premium on a life than recent decision we saw in Georgia ( a 2 month sentence). Also, be prepared for a much more remorseful Mr Johnson. Now that he has been charged he will be prepared by counsel and will display a different attitude. It will be interesting to watch and the best we can hope for is that this may change the attitude of motorists.

storiesihaveread
385
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storiesihaveread 02/09/11 - 02:02 pm
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Riding a motorcycle is just

Riding a motorcycle is just as dangerous. I am in the middle of all the cars on the road. I my self had to lock up both brakes to avoid a car that pulled out in front of me. Locking up brakes on a motorcycle can cause your heart to skip a beat. Changed lanes and almost ran me off the road, or coming up on me at a stop light. I have seen where one rider was sandwiched in between 2 cars when he got rear ended.

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